Arguably the most beautiful and colourful fish available to the freshwater aquarium keeper, the Discus fish is often referred to as “King of the Aquarium”.

They earn their name from the flat, round bodies. In the wild they are mainly found in blue, green and brown varieties but thanks to selective breeding within the aquarium hobby, they are available in just about every colour you can imagine.

Though beautiful, these fish require soft, slightly acidic water. They are particularly sensitive to metals within water so an RO/Di Unit should be considered. These fish are not suitable for beginner aquarists as some specialist care and high quality water parameter are required.

They are relatively slow swimmers and will not appreciate a high flow tank. They also prefer a slightly darker tank, a less powerful light should be considered, along with floating plants to help diffuse the light.

Tank Requirements

School of Discus
School of Discus
  • Specialist Community with non-aggressive tank mates.
  • Temperatures between 27°C and 30°C
  • Water between pH 6.0 and pH 6.8
  • These fish prefer to be kept in large schools
  • Lots of live plants & driftwood are preferred 
  • Larger tanks work better for these fish, they are known to grow up to 8″ in diameter so your tank not only needs to be long, but it needs to be deep
  • They do better in an established with stable parameters

Feeding

Pigeon Blood Discus
Pigeon Blood Discus
  • These are omnivores
  • They will eat pretty much anything that is put in the tank.
  • They are fairly slow eaters, and care should be taken to ensure that faster eating tank mates don’t eat everything before the Discus get their share.
  • Live and frozen foods are preferred.
  • They need to be fed multiple times a day, preferably at least 3 times per day.

Male & Female Discus

Male Discus
The sharp, pointed tail shows this to be a male Discus.

As juveniles it is near impossible to distinguish which fish are male and which are female. At around the age of 6 month your Discus should be reasonably well developed and coloured up, at this point they will probably be around 4″ in diameter.

The easiest way to tell if your discus is male or female is to look at the shape of their fins. Males will have sharper more pointed fins than the females.

Female Discus
The rounded fins show this to be a female Discus

Males will also have a bigger and more rounded head. Males are always larger than females.

If it is still not clear which is male and which is female you may have to wait until the start spawning. If one of them lays eggs, its a female. The male will then swim over to the eggs and fertilise them.

 Personal Review

Discus fish were a dream fish of mine. When I first started to become interested in fish keeping, I aspired to keep a school of Discus. After many years of keeping a community tank, I bit the bullet and bought myself a Discus tank.

Discus Tank
My Discus Tank in it’s early days

I enjoyed keeping them, but they are not for the feint hearted! They require constant care, specific and stable water parameters to thrive & careful consideration should be taken when picking their tank mates.

In all honesty, I am not sad that I don’t keep them anymore. I enjoyed them at the time, and I felt like I had reached the absolute pinnacle of fish-keeping when I successfully bred these fish in my aquarium, but for the work needed to keep them alive, I honestly feel like I should have just jumped into saltwater fish keeping then. The tank required the same, if not more, attention that my saltwater tank demands.

They are beautiful, and I don’t think they are rivalled in their beauty when it comes to freshwater fish, but they are hard work!